Last chance to catch Thief River, Lee Blessing's tale of the star crossed relationship between two gay men over five decades, at Off Broadway's Signature Theatre. The play, which shuffles time frames and 12 different characters played by six actors, ends its scheduled run June 17.
Frank Converse, Gregg Edelman, Erik Sorensen, Neil Maffin, Remak Ramsay and Jeffrey Carlson star in the piece, which was staged by Mark Lamos and received mixed reviews. Blessing's other works include Chesapeake and A Walk in the Woods.
Thief River is part of a two-season retrospective for the Signature Company, which generally alots a whole year to the works of one writer. As such, for its tenth and eleventh year of operation, Signature is staging one play each by the writers spotlighted during the first nine seasons. This season began with Romulus Linney's A Lesson Before Dying and also included Urban Zulu Mambo (assembled by Adrienne Kennedy from various one-acts by other writers) and Horton Foote's The Last of the Thorntons.
The Signature's anniversary double-season returns Sept. 16, with the first preview of Sam Shepard's The Late Henry Moss. The play's recent, sold-out-before-it-opened L.A. premiere boasted such notables in the cast as filmdom's Nick Nolte, Woody Harrelson and Sean Penn. A different cast will appear in the Off-Broadway production. Occasional Shepard collaborator Joseph Chaikin will direct.
Set in the Shepardian version of the American West, Henry Moss pits two brothers, Earl and Ray (originally, Nolte and Penn), against the memory of their father Henry, whose family secrets and death are revealed in mysterious ways. Spicing up the comic mix are a neighbor who spends his time making the Mexican tripe-and-chili soup, called Menudo, and a talkative cab driver, and a rhumba-dancing girlfriend. The Late Henry Moss opened at San Francisco's Theatre on the Square Nov. 14, 2000. The production, sold out before a single performance played, began Nov. 7 for a run through Dec. 17.
Also promised for the Signature Theatre's 2001-02 season, according to a spokesperson, are the world premieres of Edward Albee's I Think Back Now on André Gide and John Guare's A Few Stout Individuals.
Promotional materials for the theatre note that Albee's play is "one of his most `experimental' to date," while Guare's tells of a penniless man whose son squandered his fortune. He's offered a new fortune by a publishing company for his memoirs, but will he hang on long enough to write and remember?
Going back to its one-season-per-playwright modus operandi, the Signature Theatre Company will dedicate its 2002-03 season to Lanford Wilson.
Wilson's work began being produced in New York in 1963, at places like Caffe Cino and La MaMa, where he and Sam Shephard (a Signature playwright of several seasons back) were contemporaries. Early plays included Rimers of Eldritch and Balm in Gilead, which Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company revived to great acclaim in the early '80s. Wilson's fortunes rose with the '70s, a time which saw the success of such works as Lemon Sky, The Hot l Baltimore and the first two part of his "Talley Trilogy," 5th of July and Talley's Folly. The latter won the Pulitzer Prize.
Many of these works were presented at Circle Repertory Company, a landmark Off-Broadway troupe Wilson co-founded.
The last decade, however, has seen a slow falling off in Wilson's commercial and critical stock. The last play of his to reach Broadway was 1993's Redwood Curtain, which quickly closed to great financial loss and by some accounts helped speed the subsequent demise of Circle Rep. Many of Wilson's most recent efforts — including The Rain Dance, Book of Days and A Sense of Place, or Virgil Is Still the Frog Boy — haven't been seen in New York, debuting instead at such places as the Bay Street Theatre in Long Island and the Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea, MI.
Wilson said Book of Days and Rain Dance were possibilities for the Signature season.
—By David Lefkowitz
Robert Simonson and Christine Ehren